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STEAM ... design thinking .... We've all heard about how it is important to implement both into our daily lessons. Most teachers are very aware of how it benefits our students but I think finding the right lessons and the TIME to implement them is a struggle. I also find that when it comes to these lessons, letting go of some control is also key. When it comes to design thinking challenges, the students need to be the drivers and you as the teacher need to be the facilitator.

One of my favorite STEAM/design thinking lessons is my Engineering Ozobot Mazes project. I started it three years ago and each year I've been able to update and modify the lesson to make it even better.


This project takes time, so I've split it up into five weeks. I have different students each day of the week, so technically it is only five class periods and about 30 minutes each class period. I've also done this project in four weeks, so it can be done in a shorter time frame.

During the first week, I give my students a 10x10 poster square. We work together to draw the grid using rulers. I emphasize that it doesn't have to be perfect because most of it will be covered up by their materials. I do have some students that need extra support with this.

Prior to starting this project, I ask for students to bring in supplies by posting it on my weekly newsletter. I also collect items myself. Here are some of our favorite materials to use.


Next, I allow my students to go "shopping" for the materials that they wish to use for their maze. I give each of my students a gallon sized Ziploc baggie and they go "shopping" for materials that they want to use. I have five larger classes, so I do give them a limit on the number of items that they can take. I do tell them that they can also use materials that they have at home. I just want to make sure that I send materials home with all my students, so that they all can be successful. 

The next step of the project, I have broken down into three weeks. I've also done this part in two weeks, so either one will work. You just need to find what works best for you and your class and what works one year might not work the next. I have my students complete the planning at school but I have them build their maze at home for homework. Here is the break down of the project.


The first week is all about planning. I encourage my students to take out all of their materials and lay them out on their 10 by 10 poster square. Then, they will draw it on their grid. I ask them to label the materials and fill out the maze key.


I give my students two weeks at home to build their maze. I've also had them build them in class but I've learned that this works better as a home project. When they are finished with their mazes, they bring them back to school.

The next part of this project is the programming. I love the programming part because the kids really have to think and problem solve to get their ozobot to travel all the way through their maze. I give them two weeks (30 minutes each week) to work on the programming. Some finish before that and some will need the whole time.


I will have  a second post (COMING SOON) that will give some tips and tricks for the programming part of this project.





Integrating coding into the classroom can be a little intimidating at times .... but with the right websites and content, it can be very engaging for your students. I wanted to write this blog post to share my top favorite websites to use with my students. These websites are all FREE ... and they work great for students in grades 3-5. (*Note - The third website is free for the first 30 days and after the trial is over, it is a paid website.)


Scratch is my classes' favorite coding website. It is a free website developed by the MIT Media Lab. It uses a block based coding language and it allows your students to create their own projects.


You can setup a teacher account for free and then setup student accounts under your class. My students create scratch projects in my class often. This past week my students read an article from Newsela in a station and then they created a Scratch project retelling five important facts from the article. I also use it for enrichment in math.


If you are ready to really challenge your students when it comes to coding, I suggest introducing them to Python programming language. I use repl.it with my students because it is web based and you can actually code with several different programming languages. I use it with both Python language and also Python Turtle Graphics. If your school district is a Google district, your students can log in with their Google information and save their work.


My students really love to use Python Turtle Graphics to code different shapes. They create a design using different shapes and written lines of code. The possibilities are endless and would be great for any geometry lesson. 


I am planning on writing a blog post just about Python Turtle Graphics, so it will be coming out very soon.


The last website that I recommend is Code Monkey. The students complete different challenges to help the monkey get his bananas back from the guerilla. The guerilla steals the monkey's bananas and the goal is to get them all back. The students are able to use logic, measurement and problem solving to help the monkey through each level. 


The website has changed a little since last year. In the past, you were able to play the first 21 levels of challenges without having to create an account. Now, you have to sign up for a 30 day trial for your students. It is still a great website with clear instructions and step by step help for your students. It is a great way to incorportate writing lines of code in your classroom.  


I really enjoy integrating coding into my classroom and these three websites are my classes' favorites. Do you have any to add to this list? Leave me a comment and let me know. 

I'm working on writing more detailed blog posts about each of the three websites that I mentioned above. Please look out for them in the near future. 



Coding in the classroom has definitely been huge in education lately but it is often a struggle to fit it all in. This summer I was super excited to learn that you can now code with Moby. I have used BrainPop in my classroom many many times and I can't wait to use the creative coding with my students. I am also excited to share more about how you can use BrainPop coding activities in your classroom.


When you log into BrainPop, you will need to type in "creative coding" in the search bar. Right now, there are 40 topics that include coding activities. Some of the topics include ... seasons, division, cells, Martin Luther King Jr., dinosaurs and conflict resolution.


Including coding projects into your classroom instruction can sometimes be a struggle. I really think that BrainPop hit the nail on the head when they decided to include coding activities that are content based. These activities would be great for an extension, enrichment for your gifted learners or a closing activity after a unit.


Each topic includes all of the normal activities that you know and love but they now include a creative coding activity. You can use it as a closing activity or even start with the coding activity to have your students show what they know.


Each topic includes four different coding projects (stop motion animation, meme, doodle augmented reality and a newcast). The coding projects are very easy to follow and include detailed instructions for your students. The meme is my favorite but I will definitely be using all four in my classroom. I love giving students choice and I love that BrainPop is offering choice.


Another great feature is that you can print out planning paper for you students. This would be great to have them plan out their project before they actually create it. If you click on the "plan" button on the right side, it will take you to a planning sheet that you can print out.


I hope you are able to use BrainPop Creative Coding in your classroom this year. What are some ways that you might use it in your classroom? Leave me a comment.





Hi friends! Today I wanted to share my passion with you guys and hopefully inspire you to incorporate it into your classroom. My passion is definitely 21st-century learning and technology. I have really let my students drive the learning through student choice. I love providing my students with the inspiration and opportunities to explore and create through coding projects. I have had so many magic moments in my classroom this past year and I can't wait to share them with you guys. 

Today I wanted to share how you can help your students create digital animated stories using Scratch.


So your first question is probably ... WHAT IS SCRATCH?  Scratch is a block style coding program that will allow your students to create their own interactive stories and games.  There is a free online version of Scratch and also a free version that you can download onto your computer.  You can find both versions HERE.


I honestly did not know much about Scratch until a few years ago.  I just dove into it and learned all that I know from trying different things and watching a ton of tutorial videos.  But trust me friends ... your kids will pick it up quickly and they will be motivated and inspired to create new stories.

Still unsure ... don't worry ... I've got you covered!  I created a short video tutorial that you can show your students.  The video will teach them how to create a short animated story in Scratch.  They can watch it and re-watch it until they feel comfortable or you can watch it and then teach them.  I have more tutorial videos coming soon.
This past school year was my first year as a full-time technology teacher but I know the struggle is real when trying to integrate technology. Time is tight and it can be a hassle at times to fit it all in! However, the best part of technology is that it is super engaging and can enhance ANY lesson. Today I want to share with you guys how to integrate coding into a math geometry lesson. My third, fourth and fifth graders LOVED this lesson! I even created a video lesson for you to share with your class!


I created this lesson as an enrichment lesson to get students practicing angles, coordinates and geometry. I decided to focus on squares and rectangles and then challenge my students to create other shapes on their own. Here is the video lesson that you can share with your students.

This is my first year teaching in upper elementary. One of the things that I have really worked on is implementing student-led learning in my classroom. It is definitely an area that I am constantly reflecting on because I definitely see a lot of growth from my students when they lead the learning. It also helps make learning relevant to students.


One of my favorite student-led learning opportunities is the design challenge. The only supplies that I gave my students were cardboard pieces, masking tape and poster board (11x11). I learned the hard way that the best thing is to cut the cardboard into strips. The students were able to cut the strips into smaller pieces for their maze. If you give them a box to cut, it will be a disaster. Just warning you now!


My students worked with measurement during this design challenge. They used rulers to make one inch marks to draw out a design grid. They also used protractors to measure angles. They also really got a chance to use critical thinking because we had to make sure that we designed a path that was wide enough to fit our ozobots.


After the design challenge, we worked on programming our ozobots to travel through our mazes. It was a great way to make our design challenge relevant.

I hope that you are able to implement student-led learning in your classroom. I would love to hear about your experiences.



  
Ozobots are a great way to integrate STEM challenges into your classroom.  They are easy to program and have four different levels for different programming skills.  They are definitely a favorite in my classroom.  This is part two of my ozobot blog series to show you a few different ways that you can integrate ozobots into your classroom.  Here is how I used ozobots in my math lesson to help my students learn and review quadrants and coordinates.


My students were learning about x and y coordinates and the four quadrants.  I decided to have them complete an ozobot challenge centered around that.  I gave the students a piece of grid paper and a checklist.  The students had to find the point of origin and then label the x and y coordinates.  


As part of the challenge, they had to determine the starting part or where their ozobot would start.  Then we used ozoblockly to program our ozobot to complete "tricks" inside of the grid.  The challenge was to make sure that our ozobot stayed inside the grid.  It was a challenge but a fun one!



Do you want to have your students complete this ozobot challenge using quadrants and coordinates?  You can grab this freebie HERE.  I included several different grid paper sizes for easy differentiation and also an easy to follow checklist.  I hope this helps you implement the coordinates challenge into your classroom.


I hope that you were able to find some useful tips and tricks on how to integrate ozobots into your math classroom. Make sure you check out the next blog post in this series. Feel free to leave any questions that you have in the comments below.


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